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Bob Pardo - FU Hero

Posted by Jolly on April 3, 2009

Captain Bob Pardo is famous for what's become known as "Pardo's Push."  I've included a write up from the AF Magazine in 1996 about the incredible bravery and ingenuity of Captain Pardo during a mission over North Vietnam in 1967.  Reading the account of that day illustrates how fighter pilots faced with adversity adapt to the situation and improvise to find a solution.  Pardo did just that.  It's why you want fighter pilots flying your pink body around on A-words.  Sully Sullenburger being a prime example.

Pardo was lead of two ship on a strike mission near Hanoi.  His wingman and he both took on battle damage during the attack, and his wingman had a massive fuel leak as a result of the AAA they absorbed.  Bob Pardo realized that his wingman would be a resident of the Hanoi Hilton if he did not come up with a plan and fast.  He did just that by having his wingman lower his hook while flamed out so that Pardo could push him to safety with the windscreen of his Phantom.  Only a fighter pilot would come up with a solution as radical as this, but it worked.

The leadership and heroism of Captain Pardo will go down in history as an example of the "can do" attitude of fighter pilots.  The faculty at FU is proud to name Bob Pardo as our latest FU Hero.

Pardo's Push
Story by John L. Frisbee

Uncommon courage, Ingenuity, and skill were combined in a unique experience of the Vietnam War.

There are pilots who fly fighters, and there are fighter pilots. Retired Lt. Col.Bob Pardo is one of the latter. When he's not flying corporate jets in Colorado, he's doing aerobatics in single-engine planes with fighter pilot friends.

Of the 132 missions he flew in Vietnam with the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, the most memorable is that of March 10, 1967, when he and his weapon system officer, Lt. Steve Wayne, went against steel mills near Hanoi. In their flight was Capt. Earl Aman and his "Guy in Back," Lt. Bob Houghton. The Hanoi area was the most heavily defended in the history of air warfare, and on that day enemy ground fire was the heaviest Captain Pardo had seen in his many trips downtown.

Before they reached the target, Captain Aman's F-4 was hit, but he was able to stay with the formation. As they were rolling in on the target, antiaircraft gunners found Aman again. His aircraft began to leak fuel rapidly. Pardo also was hit but was able to continue with the strike, though his F-4, too, was leaking fuel. By the time they were above 20,000 feet on their way out, it was obvious that Aman did not have enough fuel to reach Laos, where he and Houghton could bail out with a reasonable chance of being rescued. If they punched out over North Vietnam, they were almost certain to be captured and either killed or sent to reserved accommodations at the Hanoi Hilton .

Bob Pardo, on the other hand, probably had enough fuel, with careful management, to reach a tanker, leaving Aman and Houghton to an uncertain fate. That was not Pardo's way. "How can you fly off and leave someone you just fought a battle with?" asks Pardo. "The thought never occurred to me." He would stay as long as Aman's fuel lasted, then think of some way to get the two men to safety. Pardo didn't have long to think about it. While they were still over North Vietnam, Aman flamed out. What to do now? Desperate situations demand desperate measures. Pardo decided to do something that, to his knowledge, had not been done before. He would push Aman's F-4 to Laos. (In 1952, during the Korean War while Pardo was still in high school, fighter ace Robbie Risner had pushed his wingman out of North Korea in an F-86. Pilots then were ordered to refrain from attempting the hazardous act again, and the event, which Risner hardly ever mentioned, faded from memory.)

With delicate touch, Pardo brought the nose of his damaged aircraft into contact with Aman's F-4, now plunging toward the Laotian jungle at 250 knots. He soon found that the pointed nose of an F-4 was not designed for pushing anything more solid than air. After several failed attempts, Bob Pardo came up with a brilliant idea. He told Aman to drop his tailhook. He then maneuvered his windscreen against the tailhook. It worked, but about every thirty seconds Pardo would lose contact because of turbulence, then back off and come in again. It was an extraordinary job of flying. Aman's rate of descent was reduced to 1,500 feet per minute.

Their problems were not over. Pardo's left engine caught fire. He shut it down, then restarted it, and again it caught fire. Never mind that. He would be at zero fuel in ten minutes anyway. It was time for everyone to hit the silk. Aman and Houghton bailed out at 6,000 feet, followed shortly by Wayne and Pardo. Once on the ground, Aman and Houghton were pursued by the enemy but managed to elude them. All four men were picked up by rescue helicopters,Pardo, who bailed out last, was rescued forty-five minutes after the others, and returned to their base at Ubon RTAB, Thailand.

Bob Pardo was an instant hero to the other pilots but not to some higher echelon accountants, who threatened to bring charges against him for losing an expensive airplane. Good judgment prevailed, and the charges were dropped. Two decades later, he and Steve Wayne each were awarded the Silver Star for what came to be known as Pardo's Push, immortalized in a striking painting by aviation artist Steve Ferguson.

Stolen from AIR FORCE Magazine / October 1996

Footnote: The aircraft involved were F-4Ds 63-7653 and 64-0839.


Posted by CecilWallace on
I went to high school with Bobby. If anyone told me that story without
giving a name and they ask me to name the person from Hearne High who
would do that, I would say Bobby Pardo. He has always been a little
big man.
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